Alevi communities react to cut-off water of Cemevi due to unpaid bill

ISTANBUL: Several Alive associations and federations showed great reaction as the water at the Garip Dede Cemevi — a prominent place of worship for Alevis in Istanbul’s Kucukcekmece district — was reportedly cut off for the third time in the past six months after the cemevi refused to pay the bill.

Following a decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Dec. 2 saying that Turkey’s failure to exempt cemevis from paying electricity bills violates the article on discrimination in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Federation of Alevi Foundations (AVF) decided not to pay the electricity and water bills.

Cemevis are not officially recognized as houses of worship and therefore do not received public funding for such expenses as Sunni mosques do. In accordance with the AVF’s decision, the Garip Dede Cemevi has refused to pay electricity and water bills to protest the fact that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government continues to charge cemevis for the services. The cemevi was reportedly also fined on Friday as a result of its civil disobedience.

Speaking to Cihan news agency, Fevzi Gumus, head of Alevi Bektasi Federation said unjust treatment to the cemevi has been one of the examples of discrimination by the AK Party government for 12 years. Gumus stated that they will not pay water bill saying cemevis are not regarded as places of worship by the government.

Head of Alevi Associations Federation Riza Eroglu stated that they were deprived of water just like Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussain who was deprived of water before being killed during the Battle of Karbala. He stressed that they the government should introduce possibilities it did for other types of places of worship such as mosques and synagogues.

The head of the Garip Dede Cemevi, Celal Firat, had previously told the press that water and electricity cuts were expected, adding, “If necessary we will refuse to pay taxes and we will fight to the bitter end.” Firat pointed out that Alevis use the cemevi for funerals and currently cannot find water to bathe the deceased. He said Alevi people are being discriminated against and that the government has to protect their rights as long as they fulfill their civic duties.

A public statement will reportedly be released by the cemevi on the subject on Monday.